A Black Woman’s Guide To Atlanta’s Hiking Scene: Where To Go, What To Pack And Groups To Trek With
Courtesy of Talaya ‘Tee’ George

Before the pandemic hit, Atlanta was the go-to city for the best parties, brunches that turned into parties and the place where tons of celebs live, work and — you guessed it — party. Then 2020 hit and put a brief pause on the Black Mecca’s fun. In between time, the city quietly shifted, putting more focus on health and wellness. Residents started to enjoy and take advantage of the outdoors. On any given day now, you can see people taking yoga classes in downtown’s Piedmont Park, rollerblading throughout the city and in what has become a very popular activity, taking hikes up Kennesaw Mountain. Atlanta is still a city you can have a great time in, but in more ways than one.  

Local lifestyle and travel blogger Talaya “Tee” George of A Sip of Tee can attest to that. Week after week George takes her followers along to what are seen as the most beautiful, family-friendly hiking trails and picturesque waterfalls that a number of residents didn’t know were available to them. She moved to the city from Virginia in 2019 and has become an expert on all things nature.

“I am passionate about diversifying the outdoors and showing you the beautiful places in your own backyard,” she tells ESSENCE. “I grew up in a military family and my travel bug didn’t hit until college when I went on my first international trip to Cancun. Back then I had the mindset that I needed a passport to travel in order to see beautiful places. Once Covid hit and international travel was put on hold, I started looking locally for things to do.”

After stumbling upon Stone Mountain, located in the suburbs of DeKalb County, she was blown away by the breathtaking views and made finding similar treks her new hobby.

“From then on I was hooked and started looking for places to explore close to home. To my surprise, there is so much to see in the Southeast. Georgia has over 700 waterfalls,” she says. “Now almost every weekend I spend my time climbing mountains and chasing waterfalls hoping to inspire others to get outdoors and do the same.”

Courtesy of Talaya ‘Tee’ George

If you’re interested in joining her on such adventures, George recommends visiting a few local and moderate trails to get started. The East Palisades Trail and Bamboo Forest located in Sandy Springs are popular options. The Palisades treks along the banks of the Chattahoochee River (Atlanta also has a West Palisades) and is 3.3 miles, leading to a grove of 30-foot-tall bamboo stalks. Located in Roswell, Vickery Creek at the Roswell Mill is a historic hike known for its Civil War mill ruins and the towering waterfall it leads hikers to. As you move on from the beginner stage, you might find yourself interested in venturing to one of George’s favorite hikes, the Panther Creek Trailhead. At 7.7 miles, it’s a more of a challenge, so you’re encouraged to strap on some hiking boots and take safety precautions.

“It’s my favorite hike in Georgia because it’s so challenging but the payoff makes it all worth it,” she says, noting there are cascading waterfalls and a swimming hole as a reward.

As for what to wear and take along on your journey, George says there is no go-to uniform. “No one will judge you,” she says jokingly. “Hikers are the nicest people. When I hike I wear leggings and a workout top and hiking boots. But wear what’s comfortable for you!”

Besides clothing, George’s bag isn’t complete without hand sanitizer and wipes, a first aid kit, headlamps (for hiking in the dark), a battery pack for her phone, tripod, water, snacks, and her Sony a7 III camera with a Sony 16-35 mm lens. As far as capturing those spectacular views as a novice without a digital camera, George says an iPhone works just fine.

As you pack your bag for your first hike, make sure you know what you’re getting yourself into by doing some research beforehand. George suggests downloading the AllTrails app to aid you in finding and navigating trails and let people know your whereabouts once you get moving — people you actually know, of course.

“[When going on a hike] always tell someone where you’re going and if you don’t want to go solo there are Facebook groups and groups on the social app Meetup that you can always join,” she says, sharing that she leads her own group outings now. “A lot of people don’t want to go by themselves so a group hike is always good.”

Courtesy of Talaya ‘Tee’ George

Overall, she encourages all hikers to be safe. Aside from using the AllTrails app, she says start small, stay on the trail of your choice, bring a battery pack in case your phone runs out of juice, and check the weather so you don’t run into a downpour that can make things slippery. Most importantly, have a good time.

“Remember why you want to explore and get outdoors and let that be your motivator,” she says. “Lastly, just have fun!” 

Looking to break into the Atlanta hiking scene or simply enjoy what nature has to offer? Check out some hiking and outdoor groups led by African-American women:

Who: Walker Run Outdoor Events & Excursions Limited Co.

What they do: Want to meet women who love to hike locally and enjoy everything from beginner to hidden trails in Atlanta? This is the group for you! They partake in various activities including hiking, camping, axe throwing with margaritas and tubing on the Hooch (Chattahoochee River).

Average price per event: Events typically range from $50-$75

How to find them: www.walkerrunoutdoor.com; Instagram: @walkerrunoutdoor

Who: Outdoor Afro Atlanta

What they do: This group seeks to connect African Americans with natural spaces and with each other. Some activities they have done, as well as upcoming activities, include paddling on the Etowah River, hiking Stone Mountain, yoga at Candler Park and bird watching.

Average price per event: free-$50.00

Where to find them: Download the app

Facebook: Outdoor Afro; Twitter: Outdoor Afro

Who: Black Women Camp Too & More OUTdoors

What they do: This group caters to Black women of all skill levels who are ready for adventure. This relatively new group has had camping outings and picnics in the park. Future events include kite flying and Georgia Island tours.

Average price per event: varies; only seen by members

Where to find them: Download the Meetup app

Who: Atlanta African-American Baby Boomers

What they do: This group is specifically for the young at heart who love living a healthy lifestyle and want to travel and enjoy the outdoors. Some past activities include a virtual walk for wellness, hiking Yellowstone, Grand Teton and Mt. Rushmore, as well as park meetups and day retreats.

Average price per event: varies; only seen by members

Where to find them: Download the Meetup app

Who: Southern SeaQuestrians

What they do: This unisex group is all about thrills and excitement. From snorkeling to scuba diving, their activities aren’t for the timid. The group focuses mostly on water sports and has monthly meetings detailing future events. It’s great for beginners and those wanting to enhance their level of exploration.

Average price per event: varies; must join the group and attend meetings

Where to find them: Download the Meetup app

To learn more about Talaya George, check out  www.asipoftee.com and follow her on Instagram at @_asipoftee_.